Inside: Learn how to manage your baby and toddler from dinner through bedtime. This Bedtime Routine is perfect for moms of a baby and toddler or an infant and toddler.
If you missed Part 1 of this series (morning through naptime daily routine) you can still learn about our daily routine here.
Where we left off…
In Part 1: How to Manage a Baby & Toddler as a Stay-at-home-mom, we ended with both baby and toddler taking their afternoon naps. Managing a baby and toddler from naptime wake-ups through bedtime is actually the new concept for Season 3 of Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix 🙂
For real, though, when naptime actually happens, and both kids are able to sleep at the same time, it feels as though you can actually hear angels singing.
When naptime’s over though, the real fun begins.
For me, the bedtime routine really starts directly following afternoon naps. Since there isn’t much time left until bed, the rest of the afternoon sets the tone for the end of the day.
The game plan is pretty simple:
1. Tire out baby and toddler in fresh air
2. Eat dinner
3. Take a calming bath
4. Read stories
5. Go to sleep
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read our full disclosure policy, here.
Below I’ll share approximate times and details for our bedtime routine (post-nap and on)
3pm-4:30pm: After my toddler wakes up from her nap there is generally a 30-minute-no-fly-zone-of-crankiness that requires a lot of “mommy hold you,” “want all the GoGo Squeez’s ever made,” and “don’t want Charlie to look at you.” Charlie is our dog, by the way.
Once this toddler cranky-time passes, here’s what we’ll do:
- Take the dogs for a walk (baby in Ergobaby Wearer, toddler pushing doll stroller)
- Play outside (sidewalk chalk, ride tricycle, do bubbles, play in playhouse, etc.) I’ll either wear my baby during this time or bring out her baby exersaucer seat for her to play in.
- Or if the weather isn’t good we’ll just play inside (build blocks, color, read, play dolls, etc.)
Dinnertime AKA How to Make Dinner with a Baby & Toddler
4:30-5pm: After outdoor playtime, I get the girls inside and make dinner!
That’s right, it’s the early bird special at our house, every night. Even Penelope is cranky if she doesn’t eat at 5pm and she’s only 8 months old.
Baby: Truth be told, babywearing while cooking is just not my favorite. Something about bouncing a baby while trying to chop veggies or deal with raw chicken is just not fun, you know?
But if the baby is being fussy, I just put her in the Ergo and make it happen. If she’s okay with playing on her own, I have an older version of this baby seat in the kitchen and I also have foam padding on the floors that she can crawl around on and play.
Toddler: TV is a last resort while I’m making dinner, but I do what I have to. I recently made my toddler an easy DIY sensory bin with lentils, wild rice, white rice, black-eyed peas and a bunch of other fun stuff. I’ve found that this can really keep her occupied and sitting in one place while I make dinner.
More Screen-Free ways to entertain your toddler while you cook dinner:
- Put them in their high chair or booster seat to do playdough
- Favorite character (Daniel Tiger, Minnie Mouse, etc.) coloring/activity book that is kept hidden and only used for this sole purpose
- Refrigerator magnets (#oldschool)
- Set up a tea party with their favorite toys
Dinnertime Resources for Moms
- Life-Changing Meal Planning Hacks
- Easy No-Recipe-Required Dinner Ideas from Real Moms
- What I Fed My Kids This Week
5pm-5:30pm: Eat dinner! We followed the baby-led weaning method with both kids so we all eat the same dinner, which makes things very easy and fun. If your toddler is a picky eater and has trouble eating what the rest of the family eats, I highly recommend this life-changing resource!
In order to simplify dinnertime, I rely on my printable meal planning cheat sheet, which has been a real lifesaver lately.
Bathtime with a Baby & Toddler
5:45ish-7:00ish: Bath & Bedtime Routine
- Bathtime with an infant and toddler: put your infant in a portable bouncer seat you can bring into the bathroom with you while you bathe your toddler.
- Bathtime with a baby and toddler: if you have a big enough tub (I use the tub in our master bedroom), put the baby in their little bathtub inside your tub, while your toddler sits in the big tub. Make sure to keep the drain open on your baby’s bathtub, and it’s also a good idea to keep your hand on the baby’s tub so it doesn’t sway. I realize this is not ideal, but we do what we have to with a baby and toddler. (Sometimes, I’ll just get in the tub with them and hold the baby!) – Whatever works!
Step 1: Get the baby out of the tub first and let toddler keep playing. Get the baby all dry and changed into PJs.
Step 2: Put baby in pack-n-play in your bedroom, and then get your toddler out of the tub and get them in PJs, while your baby plays in a safe, confined place 🙂
- Luckily, my changing table is right next to the bathroom, so I can still see and hear my toddler in the tub. I would NEVER recommend leaving your toddler in the tub unattended (or your baby for that matter).
- I know some moms who use their master bathroom (stand alone shower) and have their toddler shower while they give the baby a bath, but my toddler decidedly does not like water on her head, so here we are.
- If you need to get both kids out at the same time, drain the tub, take your toddler out first (so your hands are free) and set your toddler on the bath mat, then get the baby out.
Toddler Routine Tips & Ideas
Bedtime with a Baby & Toddler
- Spouse/Partner is Home: Everyone gets a kid! Mom does baby’s bedtime and dad does toddler’s. Easy.
- Flying Solo: I have tried (and failed) at many different versions of this. There is no perfect way to put a baby and toddler to bed at once. So give yourself some Grace with a capital G here. One child has obviously got to go to sleep first, and sometimes, there is no clear-cut answer as to who it should be.
Here are some ideas to get you started
Explain to them that you are going to put the baby to sleep and they are going to play quietly in their room. You can say something along the lines of: “When mommy is done putting baby sister to sleep, we will have a special storytime together in your room, and then I will tuck you in for goodnight songs.”
This routine takes practice and repetition before it “sticks”
Step 2: After your toddler is set up with their “quiet time” – get baby down for bed. Easier said than done. My toddler would often come out of her room looking for me, open the door to the baby’s room, or have a general end-of-day tantrum because I couldn’t be in two places at once.
- As time went on, this whole routine became easier for my toddler. However, when she was on the younger side, closer to 2 years old, this whole concept was very difficult for her to embrace.
- I tried many different versions of this and I’ve had the most success with the version I’ve shared with you above. The primary reason being that toddlers NEED that special attention from you at the end of the day, which is almost impossible when you also have a baby to attend to.
- I found that if I could keep my toddler entertained long enough, I could get the baby to sleep and then have that one-on-one time with her.
Step 3: Make good on your promise! After putting the baby down for bed, it’s stories, songs, and off to sleep for toddler!
Step 4: Netflix. Wine. Ice Cream. Repeat as needed.
Congrats! You’ve made it to the end of the day with a baby and toddler. For me, the proverbial finish line is when the dishwasher is running, the toys are put away, and my body has become one with the couch.
I realize this is probably more information that you bargained for, but as a new mom of one and then a new mom of two, it’s tough trying to figure all this stuff out on your own, which is why I wanted to share my play-by-play with you.
Please remember that I am not a professional in any way, just a mom like you, sharing her experiences.